Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Will the rocking Tea Partiers revive the sclerotic GOP?

Last week, David Brooks had bad news for his New York Times readers: The backlash against the Tea Party hasn't occurred. Neither has the 10-car collision the press and the left have predicted, though there have been harsh words and scraped fenders.

Instead, a different traffic event is occurring: The sort of impasse that happens when two streams of traffic feed into one lane, and there are slowdowns, stops, and multiple curses as cars maneuver for openings. In traffic terms, this is a lane merger, which can be tricky, but seldom results in a serious accident.

In cookery terms, the Tea Party is being folded into the Republican Party, before the souffle is put into the oven. A dynamic, raw, and undisciplined movement is being fed into an establishment that has coherence and structure, but has grown too sclerotic. This can only be good for them both.

Before we go into the slips and the screw-ups, it might help to consider what hasn't occurred. The Tea Party did not go third party, a chronic temptation, but instead followed the Ronald Reagan directive, that the more conservative of the two major parties is where a conservative movement belongs.

The Republican Party, while slow on the uptake, has not been reflexively hostile: It embraced Tea Party candidates when they defeated its favorites, lowered the boom on Charlie Crist when he went independent, and is preparing to do the same thing to Lisa Murkowski, who richly deserves it.

It would do both sides good if they could both concede that in Delaware there were legitimate reasons for objecting to both Mike Castle and Christine O'Donnell, who is making Karl Rove and Charles Krauthammer look wiser in retrospect. But even if O'Donnell flames out, she is a small price to pay for South Carolina gubernatorial nominee Nikki Haley, South Carolina congressional hopeful Tim Scott, and Florida senatorial nominee Marco Rubio, potential superstars, and coalition-expanders.

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